An Ode to (Another) Chicken

This morning, I had to euthanize my daughter’s favorite chicken.

Also, good morning to you, too.

I’ve had to do this before with other chickens, since I’m not the best chicken veterinarian. I gather that it takes patience, attention to detail, diligence and patience – even then, it’s almost always a crapshoot. There are folks who can nurse a chicken back from the brink of death; I sure wish one of them had been here for little Lady Fluffington.

I found her underneath the walkway a couple of nights ago, wet and muddy. I had noticed that the silkie egg production had gone down, and hadn’t thought anything of it – but when I saw her huddled up, I knew I’d missed a crucial cue. I might have been able to save her if I’d started investigating when the egg count went down, but I figured it was all the snow and weather arrhythmia doing it. Silkies aren’t exactly reliable layers anyhow.

For two days, she was in the house, and I literally had to hold a little dish of water infused with electrolytes and antibiotics up to her beak for her to drink. Whatever it was took her downhill fast, and this morning I found her lying on her side, barely breathing and burning up with fever.

I had several talks with Zoe about what was happening over the last few days. “She might die,” I told her.

“It’s okay, Mama. I know you’re trying your hardest, and I’ll be sad if she dies, but I won’t be upset.” She would pat me on the shoulder, and I wondered how in the hell I ended up being the one comforted. I tried several variations on this theme, but each time, she was sad, but resolute. “I know that chickens die. It’s okay.”

Zoe is at her Nana’s house today. I took little Fluffington out to the edge of the property, apologized to her, and ended it quickly. I buried her beneath an Oregon grape plant, partially so Zoe can go say goodbye when she gets home.

Farm life is the best life, I told myself while going into my husband’s office for a hug. Best is not synonymous with easiest, though. Connection – whether to people, animals, the land, anything – will at times be painful. But a life of disconnection is far worse, because in order for me to feel this much pain about a silly little fluffball, I had to have experienced great joy with it: hatching it from an egg, watching children play with it, seeing my daughter care for it, collecting eggs, seeing it hold its own against the big birds, and giving it baths whenever it got too muddy to clean itself. Years from now, someone will remember a funny story about the little black silkie who would “bork” back at you if you called, who let children pick her up without complaint, and who would sit in your lap if you sat still long enough.

Life, especially for little chickens, is fleeting. I’m glad that hers was a good one, and that it enriched ours in the process.